Apostates In Profile
He was born near Lynn, Indiana, on May 13,1931. At the age of twenty-one, he became pastor of his first church. He preached a fundamental Christianity early in his ministry, but his message radically changed to a corrupt form of Pentecostalism, laced with Spiritualism and bogus miraculous healings. He even claimed to have raised over forty church members from the dead.1
In 1973, he founded an agricultural colony in rural Guyana, South America, which later deteriorated when many members defected because of his autocratic control and harsh treatment of them. Ironically, an interfaith group voted him one of the 100 most outstanding clergymen in 1975.2 Most likely, this award came because of his community involvement in social programs.
On November 18, 1978, the colony in Guyana was destroyed when more than nine hundred of the faithful members committed suicide by ingesting poison. The 47″ year-old leader was found shot to death when government authorities investigated the tragedy.
It is not difficult to surmise that this infamous religionist is none other than Jim Jones, one of the worst apostates in modern history. Lest you think that Jones is an exception to the rule, guess again! J. Gordon Melton, in his book on American cults and sect leaders, has profiled numerous modern apostates similar to Jones.
Faced with the same horrible situation in his day, Jude profiled what characteristics the Christian should look for in detecting present-day apostates.
Jude described apostates in three ways. First, they are dreamers who “defile the flesh” (v. 8). The noun “dreamers” refers to the sensual fancies which have contaminated these heretics causing them to commit gross immoral acts similar to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. One author wrote:
There is a pattern of sexual impropriety in the lives of many present day cult and occult leaders. Sun Myung Moon was briefly imprisoned … in 1955 on charges of injuring public morals (i.e. sexual promiscuity) … David Berg’s, . . . fiirty fishing, in which female members are encouraged to become ‘happy hookers’ . . ., if necessary, to demonstrate God’s love to potential converts . .. Jim Jones regularly had sexual relationships with members of his congregation . . . involving both married and single individuals.3
Second, they “despise dominion” (v. 8). The word “dominion” (kuriotes) comes from the Greek word for Lord (kurios) and is used of angels as well (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16; 2 Pet. 2:10). These apostates “despise” (reject) the authority of Christ and His angelic host. They become authorities unto themselves and will not accept any guidance from spiritual leaders (cp. Jude 4). “Dominion” can apply to political authority as well; thus, these apostates reject and rebel against both church and state.
Modern-day apostates often have conflict with the state, church and families of their followers. They violate state laws in their practices of illegal political activities and fundraising programs. Their doctrines twist and misinterpret biblical theology held by the local church. These leaders demand total loyalty, and their followers are required to break off former relationships with parents and spouses who might compete with their commitment to the movement.
Third, they degrade dignities (v. 8) by speaking evil of them. The words “speak evil” (v. 8) mean to blaspheme, whereas “dignities” (v. 8) refers to glory. Thus, these apostates slander God and the angelic host in Heaven.
So many modern-day apostates blaspheme the Lord by their beliefs:
Jim Jones claimed that he was the reincarnation of… Jesus Christ . . . Guru Maharaj ]i … had no reservations about accepting the rather exalted title of Perfect Master and Lord of the Universe . . . Sun Myung Moon has left little doubt in the minds of many of his disciples that he is the Messiah.” 4
Dr. Edward Pentecost put it well: “These three actions reveal their inner attitude of physical immorality, intellectual insubordination, and spiritual irreverence.”5
Disputing The Devil
Jude contrasted the despised and degrading speech of these apostates with the self-restraint of “Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil . . . about the body of Moses” (v. 9).
Who is Michael? He is an archangel, and his name means who is like unto God? What a striking contrast to the name Satan, which means adversary, and which is used to describe his opposition to God and all that is holy.
Michael is the warring angel (Dan. 10:10-21; Rev. 12:7) who protects Israel (Dan. 12:1) from Gentile world powers bent on her destruction. From the above references, it is clear that Satan will stop at nothing to destroy both God’s people and His ultimate kingdom promises made to Israel.
When did this contending take place? The incident is not mentioned in the Bible. A number of church fathers wrote that Jude took the incident from The Assumption of Moses, a pseudepigraphical writing in the Apocrypha, which describes Moses’ funeral mentioned in Deuteronomy 34:5-6. Jade’s statement seems to be similar to what is recorded in The Assumption of Moses, but there is no proof that this was his source. It is not known where Jude received his information.
Some believers are puzzled at why Jude would introduce a non-canonical traditional story from the Apocrypha into God’s revelation, if indeed he did. It must be understood that, if Jude did quote from this Apocryphal source, he is in no way claiming it to be divinely inspired. The Apocrypha was never considered to be divinely inspired by Judaism, nor was it accepted as part of the Hebrew Bible. If Jude did quote from the Apocrypha, he is simply using a story familiar to his readers in order to illustrate and confirm the contention between Michael and Satan. It should be remembered that Jesus, Stephen and Paul also used non-canonical material not found in the Old Testament.
Why was Moses’ body so important to Satan? Josephus wrote that Moses exceeded all men in understanding, military ability and prophetic office. To those who heard him speak, said Josephus, it was as if they heard the voice of God himself.
It is not difficult to surmise that if Satan could acquire Moses’ body, he would get Israel to venerate and worship it. Not only would this be true of Israel, but church history is replete with examples of men worshipping images and religious relics. During the Tribulation, Satan will induce men to worship an image of a man (Rev. 13:4-5, 15).
All that is known of Moses’ burial is recorded in Deuteronomy 34:6: “And he [God] buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor; but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.”
How did Michael respond to Satan? “Michael… dared not bring against him a railing [slanderous] accusation” (v. 9). That is, he did not answer Satan with reproachful words that pronounced judgment upon him. He simply said, “The Lord rebuke thee” (v. 9), or May the Lord rebuke thee — a wish for God to judge Satan.
A number of lessons can be learned from Michael’s action. First, he did not usurp authority over God but left all judgment to Him, as taught in Scripture. Christians are instructed to do likewise: “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts” (1 Cor. 4:5).
Second, when Jesus was tempted by Satan, rather than engage in dialogue with or rebuke him, he simply quoted the Word of God (Mt. 4:1-11). The Christian is to resist Satan (Jas. 4:7) in like manner.
Third, during a service some ministers will rebuke Satan and pronounce that, in the name of Jesus, his power has been broken and bound. There was a ministry of binding and loosing given to the apostles (Mt. 16:18-19) in reference to the forgiveness of sin, but it was not used as mentioned above. How foolish and dangerous for a minister to take on Satan, who is much greater in power. If Michael the archangel dared not confront Satan, how presumptuous of the Christian to do so.
In contrast to Michael, these apostates “speak evil of those things which they know not” (v. 10). That is, they revile or blaspheme God, angels and Christians (1 Pet. 3:16). During the Tribulation, the Antichrist and his followers will do likewise (Rev. 13:5-6).
Jude went on to say that these apostates speak against those things which “they know not; but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves” (v. 10). This verse contains two different Greek words for “know.” The first (oida) has reference to mental comprehension of the spirit world, whereas the second (epistamai) speaks of knowledge acquired by the senses — that is, by natural (v. 10) instinct. These apostates are put in the category of “brute beasts” (v. 10) who are like unreasoning animals that live by their senses since they possess no reasoning powers.
Simply put, these apostates lacked true spiritual knowledge concerning the things of God. It was beyond their grasp since they were living by their natural senses and ungodly physical appetites like the animal world. By their blasphemous tongue and unchaste lifestyle, they “corrupt” [destroy] themselves” (v. 10), said Jude. Thus, the apostate’s Gnostic claim to possess esoteric spiritual knowledge is fallacious.
Jude chose three men from the Old Testament to illustrate how the apostates had rebelled against God’s authority. The first example was the road of Cain: “For they have gone in the way [road] of Cain” (v. 11). In the account of Cain and Abel, both men brought an offering to the Lord (Gen. 4:1-5). Abel’s offering was a blood sacrifice, whereas Cain’s was from the ground. God accepted Abel’s offering since it was given in faith, but He rejected Cain’s offering which was the work of his hands given with an improper heart (Heb. 11:4). Upon being rejected, Cain became angry, his countenance fell, and he slew his brother Abel (Gen. 4:5, 8).
What is meant by the way of Cain? It is embarking out on a course in life that substitutes works for God’s way of salvation. When God provided coverings of skins through animal sacrifices (Gen. 3:21), He was teaching Adam and Eve that blood was necessary for men to approach Him. Thus, the way of Cain is the practice of an unregenerate man rebelling against God’s way of salvation through blood which, in turn, produces a religious system of self-willed worship by means of his own works. This is clearly I seen in many religious systems today.
he second illustration was the reward of Balaam: “For they. .. ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward” (v. 11). The story of Balaam is presented in Numbers 22-25; 31:8, 16. Balak had hired Balaam (a hireling prophet) to curse Israel, but God prevented each of his attempts to do so. Realizing he could not curse Israel, Balaam devised a plan whereby God would have to curse Israel. He had Moabite women commit harlotry with the men of Israel in order to seduce them into worshipping the gods of the Moabites (Num. 25:1-3). God did curse and judge 2,400 Israelites who worshipped at Baal-peor (Num. 25:4-9), but in the process judgment fell upon the Midianites (Num. 31:1-24) and Balaam (Num. 31:8) who had caused Israel to sin.
What was the “error of Balaam for reward ? It was hiring out one’s religious services for monetary gain. The apostates in Jude’s day did just that They “ran greedily” (v. 11) after the money that could be acquired by performing religious service. The words “ran greedily” mean that they poured themselves out or rushed headlong into the practice mentioned above.
Today many religious leaders have accumulated great wealth through getting their followers to commit huge amounts of money to them or their movements. Sad to say, many Christian television ministries, singers and publishers seem to be performing religious services for the wealth that can be obtained. Peter warned those who minister not to do it for “filthy lucre” (1 Pet. 5:2), that is, the greed of money.
The third example was the rebellion of Korah. Jude said that these apostates would perish “”in the gainsaying of Korah” (v. 11). The word “gainsaying” means to speak against. Korah, along with Dathan, Abiram and 250 Levites, rebelled against and challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron as the only ones chosen to be mediators between God and the people (Num. 16). Actually, these men were rebelling and speaking out against God who had put Moses and Aaron in their positions. Moses and Aaron had their authority validated when the earth swallowed up Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Num. 16:31-33) in judgment; the 250 Levites were destroyed by fire (Num. 16:35).
In like manner, the apostates in Jude’s day rebelled against three authorities: God’s authority over their lives, Christ as their true mediator, and the church leadership which He had ordained. The word “perished” (v. 11) is in the past tense, showing that in God’s eyes the apostates had already perished, indicating that their destruction was certain.
Rebelling against God, Christ or those He has set in positions of spiritual authority within the church is not to be taken lightly, for God said, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sam. 15:23).
One author put it well when he said, “Cain rebelled against God’s authority in salvation . . . Balaam rebelled against God’s authority in separation . . . Korah rebelled against God’s authority in service.” 6
“Woe unto them!” (v. 11), cried Jude. His words were not a curse, nor a wish for God’s judgment to fall on the apostates, but an exclamation! His heart was stirred as he contemplated the precarious standing of these men before God and the horrible end that awaited them.
Many like Jim Jones have preached a fundamental Christianity early in their ministries only to deteriorate into apostasy. In a day of unprecedented temptation to compromise one’s testimony, whether it be in morality, money or ministry, each believer must be sober and vigilant to guard against a prowling devil who seeks to destroy him.
Friend, is your armor in place? Are you contending for the faith?
- 1 David G. Bromley and Anson D. Shupe, Jr., Strange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare (Boston: Beacon Press, 1981), p. 54.
- 2 Ibid., p. 53.
- 3 Ibid., p. 152.
- 4 Ibid., p. 129.
- 5 Edward C. Pentecost, “Jude,”’ The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), p, 920.
- 6 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Alert: Beware of the Religious Impostors! “2 Peter; 2 and 3 John; Jude” (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1984), pp. 147-148.